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Non verbal communication across cultures

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Non verbal communication across cultures




Nonverbal communication is hugely important in any interaction with others as its importance is multiplied across cultures. This is because we tend to look for nonverbal cues when verbal messages are unclear or ambiguous, as they are more likely to be across cultures especially when different languages are being used. Since nonverbal behaviour arises from our cultural common sense -- our ideas about what is appropriate, normal, and effective as communication in relationships -- we use different systems of understanding gestures, posture, silence, special relations, emotional expression, touch, physical appearance, and other nonverbal cues. Cultures also attribute different degrees of importance to verbal and nonverbal behaviour. Low-context cultures like the United States and Canada tend to give relatively less emphasis to nonverbal communication. This does not mean that nonverbal communication does not happen, or that it is unimportant, but that people in these settings tend to place less importance on it than on the literal meanings of words themselves.
In high-context settings such as Japan or Colombia, understanding the nonverbal components of communication is relatively more important to receiving the intended meaning of the communication as a whole. Some elements of nonverbal communication are consistent across cultures. For example, research has shown that the emotions of enjoyment, anger, fear, sadness, disgust, and surprise are expressed in similar ways by people around the world. For instance, it may be more social acceptable in some settings in the United States for women to show fear, but not anger, and for men to display anger, but not fear. At the same time, interpretation of facial expressions across cultures is difficult. In China and Japan, for example, a facial expression that would be recognized around the world as conveying happiness may actually express anger or mask sadness, both of which are unacceptable to show overtly.
Also, in business world, eye contact is very important. In Asian cultures such as India or Pakistan, eye contact with a senior or an elderly person is not supposed to be a respectful gesture. On the other hand , in North American culture, eye contact is a necessity to gain other person’s trust and respect. Another facet of this discussion is the space required by an individual. In low context cultures such as North America, having a space around an individual is very important. For example, in a research held at MIT, North American individuals wanted to work in a space where they are alone and can enjoy working by themselves, whereas, on the other hand in Chinese culture, the individuals wanted to work together in a big room. Hence nonverbal communication is very important to understand.


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